February 27, 2020

Cassidy, Durbin, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Expand Coverage for Seniors’ Kidney Transplant Drugs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation to provide seniors who received kidney transplants with extended Medicare Part B to help cover lifesaving medication.

U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Todd Young (R-IN) joined as cosponsors of the legislation.

Transplant recipients require immunosuppressive drugs to keep the body from rejecting a new organ. Current law only covers Medicare Part B kidney transplant recipients for 36 months after a transplant occurs, meaning patients who lack other coverage after 36 months would have to cover the costs out of pocket. Many people ration their medications or stop taking their drugs and end up back in kidney failure and on dialysis. The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act (S 3353) would do away with that time limit ensuring that individuals who received a kidney transplant paid for by Medicare do not have to worry about coverage for medications and protect their transplant.

“Transplants save lives, but the body of the transplanted patient can reject the new organ. Immunosuppressive drugs offer protection while the body adjusts. Ensuring transplant patients have access to these medicines prevents complications, improves outcomes and saves taxpayer dollars,” said Dr. Cassidy.

“Our bill ensures that kidney transplant patients can afford the medication they need to survive and won’t have to skip or ration doses. Extending this coverage under Medicare is bipartisan and commonsense, and I urge my Senate colleagues to support this legislation,” said Durbin.

“Right now we have Iowans, and countless others across the country, who are waiting for a kidney transplant. For those that receive a life-saving, and often long-awaited, kidney transplant, it’s critical that they don’t have to worry about affording the very medications that help keep their new kidney healthy. This commonsense, bipartisan bill does right by patients, as well as the taxpayer. By extending Medicare’s coverage of these life-saving medications, we can save lives and also save taxpayer dollars,” said Ernst. 

“Kidney transplants can give seniors suffering from serious kidney disease a new lease on life, but the medication they need to help ensure the surgery is successful is too often out of reach due to high costs,” said Shaheen. “This important legislation will help make sure Medicare patients are able to access these lifesaving drugs, avoid financial burden and focus on their recovery.”

“If Medicare is covering a senior’s transplant, it also ought to ensure that the patient can access drugs to keep the organ working,” said Whitehouse.  “I hope this bipartisan legislation will be able to provide patients who are awaiting or have received a kidney transplant the peace of mind that a full recovery is possible.”

“Receiving a new kidney isn’t the end of the road for transplant recipients. Patients require immunosuppressive drugs to support their new organ, otherwise they end up back in kidney failure and on dialysis. Unfortunately, Medicare coverage for these medications oftentimes runs out,” said Young. “Our bill will ensure Hoosiers with kidney transplants have extended access to Medicare Part B to cover the costs of these drugs. I have long been focused on improving our organ transplant system, and this commonsense legislation will help save lives and cut down on costly dialysis expenses.”

“Taking daily immunosuppressive drugs isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity.  But when transplant patients can’t afford their medication, they stop taking it, which puts their lives and their new kidney at risk,” said Kevin Longino, CEO, National Kidney Foundation and a kidney transplant patient.  “We applaud Senators Cassidy and Durbin and Congressmen Kind and Burgess for championing this common-sense legislation and look forward to working with Congress to enact this life-saving bill.”

Bill text for S 3353 can be found here.